Freaky Friday Reveal Part Deux

DedicationSo What’s this new book about anyway? “What’s its aboutness?” is a phrase my former fiction writing professor Justin Tussing used to use. Kind of like theme but more generous than theme, more room for loosey-goosey feelings about what you’re reading.

Yeah Kaufman, but what’s the book about? It’s about friendship, ultimately. Which is why I chose the dedication I’m revealing above. The acknowledgment section of a book is a bit like the blurb underneath one’s yearbook photo (see last week’s post).  You want to be sincere and you don’t want to leave anyone out. A dedication is a little bit different. This book is really about finding the friends that make you feel at home in the world and no one has done that for me more than my dearest Tara. In our first meeting on the rugby field I stepped on her foot and broke her toe. This was not a tough girl move -it was a clutzy one. She still decided I was worth keeping around. Like any twenty year friendship we have had our share of ridiculous moments and poignant ones. I know there are more to come.

Here’s a little more about the book from the inside flap copy:

Ben Wireman is partially deaf and completely insecure. The only two things that make him feel normal are being a soccer goalie and hanging out with his best friend, Tyler.

Tyler Nuson is the golden boy, worshiped by girls and guys alike. But Tyler’s golden facade is cracking, and the dark secrets hidden behind it are oozing to the surface. Ben has no idea what to do when Tyler’s memories of their past start poisoning everything, including their friendship.

Enter Ilona Pierce. With tattoos, blue hair, and almost no friends, she’s exactly the kind of weirdo Ben has tried to avoid his entire life. But without Tyler, Ben isn’t sure who he is anymore, and maybe, just maybe, hanging out with a freak is what he needs.

Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature is a captivating and compelling story about the shifting dynamics between two best friends during their senior year in high school, as their loyalty to each other is tested by betrayal, secrets, girls, and the complex art of growing up.

 

Freaky Friday Reveal Part I

Yearbook

Oh wow. There I am, head tilt, blown out hair and all. The purpose of this post is to be revealing. In less than 3 weeks time I’ll be revealing the cover of my new book WIRED MAN AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE which is coming from Carolrhoda Lab in September. Cover reveals are kind of a fun thing in the YA lit world. It’s kind of like a baby shower for your book. No baby yet, but here’s a fun teaser.

Anyway, since it’s a reveal, I’ll be taking advantage of the next three Fridays to post something revealing about me and/or the book. I feel like I could leave this photo -my high school senior picture and the weird scramble of shout outs underneath as the revealing item. But there’s more. But before I get to it I feel like pointing out that these little pre-twitter blurbs that we were allowed to post under our pictures laden with not very discreet drug and alcohol references, not to mention a clear list of who your “besties” were and weren’t -were just ridiculous.

Back to the true revelation which has to do with the quote. I had a lot of trouble finding the right quote. Also, I was lazy. My friends were all pulling out these cool song lyrics or deep sentiments of famous writers. I wanted something that would tell the world of Newton North High School that I was destined for greatness and hell if anything was going to get in my way. Even something like finding the right quote. So I made one up. That’s right. I just thought of the words and put quotes around them. No one ever asked where it came from. It came from me. I wrote my own meaningful quote. A fiction writer -even then.

 

Is it YA? Summer Reading Round Up

As a YA author and a middle school teacher, I read a lot of YA. But even if I wasn’t either, I still would. Stories about adolescence and coming of age interest me. They always have. The line between what is considered YA and what is not gets fuzzier every day -especially with new categories like NA joining the party.

Now that Labor Day is past and we’re officially in the heady waters of a new school year, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about three books I read this summer. All three featured young adult characters, though only one is officially categorized as YA.

LilyKingThe first of the three was FATHER OF THE RAIN by Lily King. In the first third of this book the main character is 12-13 years old and if the book kept her there it might even qualify for a YA label. But soon we speed up to her future as an adult in her mid-twenties and the bulk of the book is told from there. Even without this, there is something dark and gritty that would prevent me from ever labeling this book as YA even though it is a coming of age story. Perhaps it’s that the coming of age doesn’t really take place until the character is in her twenties. Or perhaps it’s that the main character is unprotected and just barely shielded from her alcoholic and sexually explicit father by her own naivete. Regardless the book is tense and emotionally engrossing from beginning to end.

BonegapThe second book I wanted to mention was BONE GAP by Laura Ruby. This YA novel featured incredible writing and original small town characters and layered on magical realist touches a la Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende. Magical realism is hard to do well and rarely done in YA -it’s all usually fantasy or realistic contemporary, but rarely are the two combined, and skillfully! Underneath the wonderful layers of disappearing girls, magical horseback rides and faces that can’t be seen is a story of self-acceptance and first love, both archetypal YA themes.

LightwecannotseeLastly, I read the much lauded ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. Okay, this one is a Pulitzer prize winner as well as being endorsed by yours truly! So what I would mention here is that the two main characters, who’s lives we follow through World War II are both little more than adolescents for the entirety of the book. But no one would every categorize this book as YA. Perhaps because its characters are not engaged in the typical tropes or plot lines of adolescence? I think if YA is to survive and thrive as a true genre it can’t define itself by what it is not. As in, it’s not deep or thematic. Or it’s not complex as this book certainly is. These are neither true nor useful in reading or defining YA.

So read anything good this summer? YA or otherwise?

A Short List of Things I Do While Writing

Ha, ha, ha if you though the first thing was going to be writing or some such other glamorous author activity.

  • twitter
  • look up library books
  • update goodreads progress
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • read articles linked to twitter
  • read articles linked to facebook
  • consider entering online contests to win more books
  • write emails
  • write blog posts -sometimes about writing, sometimes about other ephemera
  • look up meaning of word ephemera or other somesuch to avoid looking like idiot
  • check craigslist for things I don’t really need
  • online browse for things I don’t really need
  • do consumer research for things I don’t really need
  • Watch occasional video of people or animals doing foolish things
  • twitter

Now this could be a wild rationalization but I do think that all this computer jiggery pokery does actually keep me in the seat -which keeps me writing longer. I think. Maybe. I’d write more about it but I have to go google myself.

Recipe for a Book Title -the Final Installment

Here are a few more stories about how books got their titles. I find the genesis of book titles totally fascinating -hopefully you do too!

Thanks to all my author friends who shared their stories!

Braider“The Good Braider was always The Good Braider and my editor and editorial staff all thought of it that way.
A novel coming out in a few months was always Rabbit in the Moon to me.  I was terribly committed to it, having found myths and symbolism around rabbits and the image of the rabbit in the moon in Cambodian culture. But now it’s called Either the Beginning or the End of the World,  taken from a Carolyn Forche poem.” -Terry Farish

Fletcher“With my debut, the title began as The Family Furnival. And then, fairly late in the game my editor told me that “some people” thought Furnival sounded like “funeral” and they couldn’t get beyond it. I polled literally dozens and dozens of people and no one else heard “funeral.” I got “carnival” “festival” “fun” and even (my favorite) “fur carnival” but no one (other than my editor’s “some people”) heard funeral. However, it was not a battle worth fighting, so I embarked on a name hunt. I wanted alliteration with family, but Fletcher actually has another secret meaning. My aunt is children’s book author Elizabeth Levy, and her first book series, back in the 1970s and 80s, were a series of picture books called Something Queer is Going On, and they featured a basset hound named Fletcher. So my book’s title -The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher – was ultimately a little inside joke with her!”  -Dana Alison Levy*

*Another gorgeous author website!!

No place to fall“My original title was Sing To The Wind. The editorial staff was concerned it sounded too young, so my editor pulled all sorts of phrases from the manuscript and No Place To Fall is what we kept coming back to. Now I can’t imagine any other title.” -Jaye Robin Brown
“Typically when I come up with my titles, I think of the simplest elements that represent my story, and I try to give it a more poetic meaning.  My story is about a lesbian girl in a small town in the rural south.  Since rainbows are the symbol for gay pride I wanted a title that represented rainbows without using the word.  After playing around with some words I came up with SOUTH OF SUNSHINE.  Rainbows are south of the sun, it’s set in the south and I named my fictitious small town Sunshine, Tennessee.  I think it accomplishes what I was going for very well.” -Dana Elmendorf
Water Castle“Secrets of Truth & Beauty was Just Like Mama Cass (changed because marketing didn’t think teens would know who Mama Cass was.)
The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill was The Remarkable Adventures of the Girl Detective, the Boy Genius, and the Spy
The Friendship Riddle was Letter Bee
Very in Pieces was Bottle Cap.
So that makes one book — The Water Castle — that kept the title that I gave it.”  -Megan Frazer Blakemore
5to1“I named my book 5 TO 1 because it’s about a world with 5 boys for every 1 girl and I honestly couldn’t think of anything better. I kinda assumed they’d change it but they didn’t. In retrospect, I wish I’d spelled it out as search engines don’t handle numbers very well.”
RealMermaids3TitleChange (2)“My first Real Mermaids book was always ‘Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings’ from submission to publication but the other three titles in the series went through some debate, especially my third book (as did the cover art!). Here’s a comparison of the first title ‘Real Mermaids Don’t Have Two Left Feet’ (which the sales team thought young readers wouldn’t ‘get’) and the second ‘Real Mermaids Don’t Need High Heels’ (which is what went to print).”  -Helene Boudreau

Recipe for a Book Title — Part 2

As promised -a follow up to last week’s post about the new title for my 2016 release:

WIRED MAN AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE

I asked a few writer friends to weigh in on their own process in arriving at a title. Here’s what they said:

Dead girls“My original working title was Legacy which I knew would never make it to print–too generic, too dull, etc. I just could never come up with anything that seemed quite right. When it came time to submit, Lauren (agent) came up with Poor Little Dead Girls as a catchier option, and it stuck. I love that it’s memorable, and it fits the tone of the book, but I do get some weird looks when I casually bring it up in conversation.” – Lizzie Carlson Friend

 

EmptyTHE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY was ILLEGAL the whole time I was writing it, pitching it and imagining it on a shelf.  About two months after I sold it, my editor casually said, “Oh, you know we can’t call it ILLEGAL, right?  There’s already a novel out with that title.”  I thought it was the worst thing that ever happened.  But now I love my title so much I couldn’t imagine it being anything else.” –Maria Andreu*

*Side note: Maria has one of the best author websites around! Check it out!!
SandV“My working title of SEX & VIOLENCE was the more benign and enigmatic THE CUPCAKE LADY OF TACOMA.This was not a title my editor could live with and I couldn’t think of anything better so when he took the book to acquisitions, he used the eye-catching title SEX & VIOLENCE. I wasn’t thrilled with this title; I thought it too blunt and also too in your face for my nice little book about lake cabin summer adventures. Even as we worked on it, I couldn’t think of anything better and after a bit, it just grew on me. Then the Meghan Cox Gurdon article happened in the WSJ and I said to my editor, what the hell, let’s just call it SEX & VIOLENCE, bc that’s what we’re being accused of writing about anyway. It still is a strange title to stand behind, though. I always feel a bit sheepish.
I should be making up better working titles for future books, but all the rest of them had no title as we were working on them. It’s kind of the worst part about the process, in some ways. I wonder if not really knowing what your story is about until you edit it and revise it several times plays into this weirdness, because that has been the case with me in all subsequent books, including the 4th one I just handed in.” – Carrie Mesrobian
MurkFrenzy was always Frenzy. Editorial agreed it was a perfect fit for my first book.
The Murk, which came out a couple weeks ago, was originally titled Mergo, a Latin word meaning I drown, I bury, I overwhelm. It’s also the name of the mysterious creature/antagonist of the book. I still prefer it to The Murk, but the editorial team thought Mergo was too vague for an MG book, and they were probably right. The Murk was my suggestion too, so I’m happy that I was able to have some say in the end.” —Robert Lettrick

 

I had so many great responses to my question I needed to divide them into two posts. The next installment coming next week…

Recipe for a Book Title– Part 1 of 2

My new book -due out in the Spring of 2016 has a title! Woot woot! And yes you’re going to have to read this whole thing to find out what it is -or work your scroll finger.

Titles and covers are two things that authors get asked a lot about and coincidentally often have very little control over. As a seasoned second time author I knew to expect some haggle and finagling over my title. I actually wasn’t strongly attached to my working title of Wireman which was simply my main character’s last name. I knew it wasn’t super catchy but I liked that it was also a play on the fact that my main character is hearing impaired and wears hearing aids that make him feel like a cyborg.

My new editor at Carolrhoda Lab, Alix Reid, made a good suggestion that I was willing to go with, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up the search. I went back to the same process I used when trying to rename Go West into The Other Way Around. I did a thorough rereading of the manuscript (that’s such a funny word -it makes me think of quill pens and ruffled collar shirts) hunting for words and phrases that might have deeper meaning and also sound cool and somewhat catchy. It’s not easy.  And it’s really hard to stay out of cliche territory.

I made a long list of everything that sounded remotely good –which meant some of it was very bad. Then I narrowed that list down to about 20 options which I shared first with my agent, Lauren, and a few trusted friends. These vetting processes are important -such as the time I thought Veg-jerky would be a great name for a dehydrated tofu product until a good friend pointed out that it sounded a lot like Vag(ina)-jerky. I don’t know what that would be but I don’t think it would sell well.

The list I sent to my editor included fewer than 10 potential titles with the ones Lauren and I liked best highlighted. From that Alix was able to eliminate the more theatrical and too commonplace ideas and pick a winner……..

So without further ado the new book is called….

WIRED MAN AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE

It’s weird and quirky without being too sci-fi (which would be fine except the book is not science fiction) and it includes the word freak –which is important to the story in a number of ways. I’m quite pleased by the collaborative nature of this whole process. I think publishing is at its best when the people who care about the book the most are able to listen to one another and build off each other’s ideas.

In honor of this new title I asked a few writer friends to tell tales about the titling of their books. Stay tuned that post is coming next week.

 

Love books and/or kids?

Cape Author Poster

Next Saturday I’ll be at the Cape Elizabeth author fest alongside many other awesome children’s and YA authors from Maine and New England. The event at the Cape Elizabeth high school goes from 10-2 and features readings from children’s authors, book signing and lots of random book-related swag. It’s a great event and a great way to support local authors. Hope to see you there!

Happy Half Birthday to Me!

Holiday little

It’s January 7th. I have not been blogging lately. In fact my last post is from October 2nd. In my defense I’ve been busy. I had a kid -yup as in birthed one; Lucius Avi Gray on October 20th. Everything after that gets a little fuzzy as life with constantly interrupted sleep can be. I don’t believe in resolutions per say but I do hope to do more blogging in this new year. There’s a lot of grumbling about the importance (or lack of) and relevance (or lack of) of blogs these days but I have to say I still enjoy the form. Sometime when all other writing is stymied or stuck, a blog post is a good way to get some words and thoughts out.

In the new year I hope to write more about reading and how it informs my writing and also a bit about parenthood and how it affects my writing -and pretty much everything else I do. Don’t roll your eyes; his is not going to turn into a mommy blog where I extol the virtues of teething necklaces, coconut oil or the latest baby-sleep inducing gadgetry. If I do, I promise it will be purely for laughs.

So that being said, I’m also publishing a post I wrote, but never pubbed, a while ago about my reading of the Goldfinch. Enjoy.